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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Unread 09-05-2013, 05:57 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldbill View Post
After reading all the posts, the only thing that I see that hasn't been addressed yet is airflow. If you're building the fire too big and having to choke down on the intake damper too much you will get dirty smoke. Try keeping your exhaust damper wide open and then controlling the heat with only the intake damper. If your intake damper is 1/3 to 1/2 open and the temperature is getting too high, your fire is too big.
I have to agree with oldbill's posts.
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Unread 09-05-2013, 10:49 PM   #17
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I usually start with a pile of stubbs and then add in the oak once it's hot
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Unread 09-05-2013, 11:17 PM   #18
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I usually start with a pile of stubbs and then add in the oak once it's hot

Same Here
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Unread 09-05-2013, 11:24 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldbill View Post
After starting with charcoal, you really shouldn't have to add any more during the cook. With the exception of occasionally having wet or unseasoned wood, the splits that you are putting in, (I average a split every 45 minutes or so) should maintain a coal bed.
Yes, they should, but if you've ever had a split roll off your coal bed, or got distracted from babysitting your cooker, or any of a thousand other real-world things (chit) happens, it's good to have a backup plan! A chimney of charcoal will get you back in the game (and back to burning wood) in a hurry.
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Unread 09-06-2013, 06:43 AM   #20
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I supplement with my coal bed with a few natural briqs at times.

If I see that the coal bed is lacking, I will just toss on 4-5 Rancher briqs.

They burn slow and it can help maintain my fire nicely

I see no harm in that. I might do it twice during a long cook, really depends.
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Unread 09-06-2013, 08:52 AM   #21
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Lots of good ideas to try and it will just take some more experimenting. I do run the exhaust damper wide open and only shut the intake to half way closed, at this point temp swings and being to hot is not my concern I just want to figure out the clean hot fire and then I will work on the fire size and temp control.
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Unread 09-06-2013, 09:12 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fat Woody View Post
Yes, they should, but if you've ever had a split roll off your coal bed, or got distracted from babysitting your cooker, or any of a thousand other real-world things (chit) happens, it's good to have a backup plan! A chimney of charcoal will get you back in the game (and back to burning wood) in a hurry.
I totally see where you are coming from about how you can get pulled away from the fire management and I agree with Buttburner that there's nothing wrong with tossing in a handful of lump to add to the coal bed, after all lump is just carbonized wood but dumping "chimneys" of charcoal into an offset is risky. Charcoal tends to ignite quickly (and all at once) and the result is usually spikes in temperature which leads to choking down on the intake to control the heat. If you choke down too much on a fire that has wood in it, it will smolder rather than combust and then it's goodbye thin blue and hello creosote and bitter food not to mention the toll that wildly fluctuating temperatures will take on your finished product. I always keep some kindling near by in case I need to jumpstart the fire but as soon as the kindling is burning, I'm putting a split on top of it to begin rebuilding the coal bed. My dampers are wide open and with good airflow it doesn't take long at all for the fire to catch back up, giving good heat and insuring clean smoke. Contrary to popular opinion, offsets are wood burners, NOT charcoal cookers! Staying with wood only will give you a much more consistent and manageable fire in a stick burner and consistency equates to killer Q.
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Unread 09-06-2013, 09:53 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldbill View Post
I totally see where you are coming from about how you can get pulled away from the fire management and I agree with Buttburner that there's nothing wrong with tossing in a handful of lump to add to the coal bed, after all lump is just carbonized wood but dumping "chimneys" of charcoal into an offset is risky. Charcoal tends to ignite quickly (and all at once) and the result is usually spikes in temperature which leads to choking down on the intake to control the heat. If you choke down too much on a fire that has wood in it, it will smolder rather than combust and then it's goodbye thin blue and hello creosote and bitter food not to mention the toll that wildly fluctuating temperatures will take on your finished product. I always keep some kindling near by in case I need to jumpstart the fire but as soon as the kindling is burning, I'm putting a split on top of it to begin rebuilding the coal bed. My dampers are wide open and with good airflow it doesn't take long at all for the fire to catch back up, giving good heat and insuring clean smoke. Contrary to popular opinion, offsets are wood burners, NOT charcoal cookers! Staying with wood only will give you a much more consistent and manageable fire in a stick burner and consistency equates to killer Q.
just to be clear I dont use lump, I use a natrual briq. The lump will burn too fast and hot for me. The natural briq I use just maintains a nice constant heat and doesnt ash much. Perfect for supplementing the coal bed
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Unread 09-06-2013, 10:21 AM   #24
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Hey oldbill - are we are having an argument? I am in total agreement with everything you have said (so far) and you have offered up some sage advice, but you seem to want to imply that I'm doing something that will result in less than great BBQ. Maybe I was not clear enough about how I'm using the charcoal; I'm not advocating switching a stickburner to charcoal, just having a little standing by for the occasional disaster, much as you use kindling, to re-stoke a fire. And I'm not dumping full chimneys into my stickburner every 45 minutes. I'm using maybe 1/4 -1/3 of a chimney to rekindle my splits and rebuild my coal bed if my fire craps out and it works for me (YMMV!!). This happens maybe once every 4-5 cooks! I have always been an advocate of all wood BBQ (as you say, lump IS wood) but also I don't mind helping it along when I need to. In fact, I have often been quoted here as saying "there is no such thing as too much wood, just bad fire management".

Back to the OP's point, the most critical part of making great BBQ is learning the idiosyncrasies of YOUR cooker and foremost is fire management; I know how my cooker will react to the addition of a little charcoal, so I can safely add it without the wild temperature fluctuations and bitter smoke you mentioned. Anywho, I don't want to hijack this thread or start an argument with someone I seem to be in agreement with so let's just say that if something is working for you and you're making great Que, don't sweat it!
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Unread 09-06-2013, 11:51 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fat Woody View Post
Hey oldbill - are we are having an argument? I am in total agreement with everything you have said (so far) and you have offered up some sage advice, but you seem to want to imply that I'm doing something that will result in less than great BBQ. Maybe I was not clear enough about how I'm using the charcoal; I'm not advocating switching a stickburner to charcoal, just having a little standing by for the occasional disaster, much as you use kindling, to re-stoke a fire. And I'm not dumping full chimneys into my stickburner every 45 minutes. I'm using maybe 1/4 -1/3 of a chimney to rekindle my splits and rebuild my coal bed if my fire craps out and it works for me (YMMV!!). This happens maybe once every 4-5 cooks! I have always been an advocate of all wood BBQ (as you say, lump IS wood) but also I don't mind helping it along when I need to. In fact, I have often been quoted here as saying "there is no such thing as too much wood, just bad fire management".

Back to the OP's point, the most critical part of making great BBQ is learning the idiosyncrasies of YOUR cooker and foremost is fire management; I know how my cooker will react to the addition of a little charcoal, so I can safely add it without the wild temperature fluctuations and bitter smoke you mentioned. Anywho, I don't want to hijack this thread or start an argument with someone I seem to be in agreement with so let's just say that if something is working for you and you're making great Que, don't sweat it!
LOL! Ok! I guess that I did misunderstand your original post and I apologize if I ruffled any feathers. The thing that I always have in mind when I post on things like fire management and fuel sources is that there are a lot of folks out there that are new to the world of smoking meat. Having made a lot of mistakes myself when I first started, I'm trying to help others to not go down those same paths and have a better beginning experience than I did. I really wasn't attacking you or your food, I just wanted to alert others to the issues that one can run into with certain practices and I guess that your post kinda' added fuel to the fire (no pun intended). There's very few things that I enjoy more than cooking,... (unless it involves a member of the opposite sex,... or beer, or a combination of the two) and I want others to love it as I do.
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Unread 09-06-2013, 12:31 PM   #26
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No worries bill! I kinda figured we were of the same mindset, just a misinterpretation due to my not fully explaining myself! I am often guilty of breezing through the forum when I'm pressed for time and making a quick comment instead of a more thoughtful and well laid out explanation - no harm and no hurt feelings!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
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Unread 09-06-2013, 04:13 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldbill View Post
Contrary to popular opinion, offsets are wood burners, NOT charcoal cookers! Staying with wood only will give you a much more consistent and manageable fire in a stick burner and consistency equates to killer Q.
Why shouldn"t one use charcoal in an offset?
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Unread 09-08-2013, 11:47 PM   #28
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Why shouldn"t one use charcoal in an offset?
Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you on this, I had a really busy weekend! It's not that it's impossible to use charcoal in an offset, in fact many have had some success with charcoal baskets and using the minion or some other method to get maximum burn times with charcoal but it is a real challenge with an offset. Offset smokers by the nature of their design just do not lend themselves to charcoal as the primary fuel source because they require free and clear ventilation which wood loves but charcoal loves TOO much. Charcoal, which performs very well with little air flow tends to ignite very quickly and all at once in a wide open offset creating a huge temp control problem and when you choke down on the dampers to control the heat, any wood that is present will not burn but smolder. You have to remember that offset smokers force heat and smoke to run sideways before being allowed to go up and exit the cooker. If ventilation is hampered you end up with low temps and smoldering wood which in turn leads to smoke hanging out in the cooking chamber and finally the end result is creosote and bitterness on your food. Basically it's about choosing the right fuel for the cooker that you have, just as you would choose the right fuel for your vehicle. A diesel engine isn't designed for gasoline any more than a gas engine is designed for diesel. Charcoal cookers such as WSM's, Eggs or insulated verticals are designed to use charcoal with a small amount of airflow to get long burn times and efficiency, whereas offsets are designed to burn wood with plenty of constant airflow. If you are burning charcoal in your offset successfully then you are not using a large amount of wood in your fire, (maybe a few chunks or even some chips) and you have a good system in place for adding coal precisely as needed to maintain temps without huge fluctuations. So in a nut shell burning charcoal in an offset can be done but it is much more challenging to do that than to just give the cooker what it wants as a fuel source which is wood. I start with a lit chimney of charcoal and a couple of splits, allowing them to ash over to create a quick coal bed and then I'll add a split as needed to maintain a small but hot and clean burning fire. The consensus for adding splits seem to be about every 45 minutes or so but that varies for different cookers. My exhaust damper stays wide open and my intake is usually about 1/3 to 1/2 open depending on the temp that I want. After starting with charcoal, no more is added to my fire and wood becomes the primary fuel source, so throughout the cook my offset is breathing normally and performing at it's optimum level. As long as I manage my fire consistently my pit will easily hold temp and produce the clean "blue" smoke that makes great Q.
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Unread 09-09-2013, 12:59 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldbill View Post
Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you on this, I had a really busy weekend! It's not that it's impossible to use charcoal in an offset, in fact many have had some success with charcoal baskets and using the minion or some other method to get maximum burn times with charcoal but it is a real challenge with an offset. Offset smokers by the nature of their design just do not lend themselves to charcoal as the primary fuel source because they require free and clear ventilation which wood loves but charcoal loves TOO much. Charcoal, which performs very well with little air flow tends to ignite very quickly and all at once in a wide open offset creating a huge temp control problem and when you choke down on the dampers to control the heat, any wood that is present will not burn but smolder. You have to remember that offset smokers force heat and smoke to run sideways before being allowed to go up and exit the cooker. If ventilation is hampered you end up with low temps and smoldering wood which in turn leads to smoke hanging out in the cooking chamber and finally the end result is creosote and bitterness on your food. Basically it's about choosing the right fuel for the cooker that you have, just as you would choose the right fuel for your vehicle. A diesel engine isn't designed for gasoline any more than a gas engine is designed for diesel. Charcoal cookers such as WSM's, Eggs or insulated verticals are designed to use charcoal with a small amount of airflow to get long burn times and efficiency, whereas offsets are designed to burn wood with plenty of constant airflow. If you are burning charcoal in your offset successfully then you are not using a large amount of wood in your fire, (maybe a few chunks or even some chips) and you have a good system in place for adding coal precisely as needed to maintain temps without huge fluctuations. So in a nut shell burning charcoal in an offset can be done but it is much more challenging to do that than to just give the cooker what it wants as a fuel source which is wood. I start with a lit chimney of charcoal and a couple of splits, allowing them to ash over to create a quick coal bed and then I'll add a split as needed to maintain a small but hot and clean burning fire. The consensus for adding splits seem to be about every 45 minutes or so but that varies for different cookers. My exhaust damper stays wide open and my intake is usually about 1/3 to 1/2 open depending on the temp that I want. After starting with charcoal, no more is added to my fire and wood becomes the primary fuel source, so throughout the cook my offset is breathing normally and performing at it's optimum level. As long as I manage my fire consistently my pit will easily hold temp and produce the clean "blue" smoke that makes great Q.
Thanks for the explanation. One last question, what size are your splits? I'm going to try your system of starting with a coal bed and adding splits as needed.
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Unread 09-09-2013, 08:39 AM   #30
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Thanks for the explanation. One last question, what size are your splits? I'm going to try your system of starting with a coal bed and adding splits as needed.
It really depends on the size of your cooker but assuming that you have an average size backyard offset, your splits are going to be about fist size in circumference and from 10 to 12 inches in length. I'm not sure what kinds of box stores that you have near by but you may have luck finding bundles of wood that is already cut to size at a Home Depot or a Lowes. You may also look in a outdoor supply store like Cabella's , Bass Pro Shop or an Academy. I use a lot of oak and at this time of year I will go ahead and get a cord of wood for my fireplace and then just cut and split some down to size for the pit.
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